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Let's have a happy, interesting New Year; Sunday mail OPINION.

The ancient Chinese curse – "May you live in interesting times" – has been hurled at enemies for centuries.

Interesting is one word for the year about to leave us and it will probably fit the one to come just as well.

The red, white and blue bunting will come down at midnight tomorrow after the Queen's jubilee and the London Olympics wrapped us in the Union Flag for 12 months.

In the year ahead, that flag and all it represents will be under renewed scrutiny as the arguments surrounding Scotland's constitutional future are brought into sharper focus.

That certainly seems to be the hope of Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Perversely, while her boss had a stinker, her 2012 was more sunshine than showers.

By now accustomed to hurling herself on the unpinned grenades falling from Alex Salmond's back pocket, Sturgeon's performance through the year was marked by a confidence and competence that eluded most of her colleagues around the Cabinet table. Today, as the new year approaches, she is calling for a bigger and better debate as we properly set out on the road to the 2014 referendum.

No one could disagree. At least no one who would rather have a root canal than listen to more of the snidey, snarky, sarcy rows that seem to prevail at Holyrood in what our MSPs insist on calling a debating chamber.

It's rubbish and we deserve much better. Every one of our elected representatives, indeed every Scot in a public position of leadership and responsibility, has a role in this national debate.

It is no time to be sage but silent. We must hear informed opinion. We should be listening to experts asking questions of our politicians, on both sides, and be allowed to properly assess their response.

The agenda of this debate is all encompassing, from future oil revenue and Europe to pension provision and education.

Now is the time to have it because by 2014, passion will be running too high. If the two sides cannot have a proper debate over the next 12 months, they never will.

This is probably the most important cross most of us will ever put on a ballot paper and, right now, we need cold facts, calm talk and considered argument.

This informed and informative debate must begin soon but the Government must not use it as an excuse to freeze normal business.

They must also retain focus on the things that matter to us every single day, not once in a generation.

Our political leaders enjoy delivering a New Year message but here is one for them. We are living in interesting times. Match them.

And to all of you from all of us, Happy New Year.

CAPTION(S):

DEBATE Nicola Sturgeon
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 30, 2012
Words:461
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